Monthly Archives: August 2011

A guest post from Gill

Being rather busy at the moment, I offered some guest blog post spots for people who had something to say about writing, reading, business, etc.  (do feel free to contact me if you have something you’d like to write about that would fit in with the general themes of this blog).  My friend, Gill Rose, has always been a stalwart supporter of Libro, hearing all about the business over a cuppa on Sunday afternoons. I already had it in mind to ask Gill to write something for me as she’s as keen on the English language as I am, so after she told me about her “romantic” break in Evesham which became somewhat … Libro-flavoured, I was thrilled when she wrote up her experiences for me. I suppose this is what happens when you’re friends with a proofreader, editor and blogger about language, although I feel the propensity was already there – Gill was, after all, the inspiration for my “fewer or less” post a while ago! Over to you, Gill!

I have always been a bit of an amateur proofreader.  I’m the one who goes around correcting the grocers’ apostrophes on notices at work (at a university, no less!), and other examples of poor SPAG (spelling, punctuation and grammar) are always picked up in the students’ work.  So Liz and I are kindred spirits.

However, I hadn’t realised how bad it had got until my husband and I went on a short break in a lovely hotel just outside Evesham.  This was courtesy of Groupon, a site which has saved me considerable sums of money recently.  We thought it would be a good chance to talk to each other; not usually easy, given our busy lives.

When we arrived we had afternoon tea, and I mentioned Liz’s ‘troublesome pairs’ project.  I knew John would be interested in this, as he finds the English language fascinating.  Well – this turned out to be great for Liz (lots of pairs to get her teeth into) but not quite so good for me, given my plan to talk about other things.  We spent the whole first evening discussing the project over a bottle of wine, working out suitable pairs to suggest.  John is like a dog with a bone when he’s interested in something, and he was certainly interested in this.  The entire few days were spent returning to this topic – while out walking, while (or do I mean ‘whilst’?) on the bus, while (or would ‘when’ be a better word?) looking around a church and at the breakfast/dinner table.  We went off at tangents, and plumbed the depths of etymology and linguistics.  My brain was buzzing; I certainly hadn’t anticipated this when first bringing up the topic.

It was an enjoyable break overall, but will now always be known in our house as ‘the troublesome pairs holiday’.  Thanks, Liz!

Thanks for sharing your experience, Gill – does anyone else have tales to tell about being the friend of a proofreader (or dare I ask?)


Posted by on August 31, 2011 in Copyediting, Guest posts, Troublesome pairs


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Index to the Troublesome Pairs

A Bank Holiday Special – as the list of Troublesome Pairs has been growing, I thought it would be a good idea to do an index to them.

Here it is! All the Troublesome Pairs, listed alphabetically, both (or all, in the case of trios) ways round.


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Saturday freelance chat – Mike Doherty

It’s Saturday, so it must be Freelance Chat day!  Today we’re hearing from Mike Doherty from Understanding eCommerce.  Mike’s from San Francisco and came across me talking about this series of interviews on Twitter.  Although we’re not talking about face-to-face networking here, look at how many people Mike’s helped in his home town … but how he’s reached out over social networking to be featured here. This one’s also interesting in that Mike moved from being a business consultant to being in business for himself – so it’s interesting to see what he learned in the process.  He’s also been going for a bit longer than some of us, so can give a longer-term perspective, and what’s particularly interesting to me, as I keep expanding the range of services I offer, is to see that his business has changed over the years, but remained viable, and that he’s constantly moving to embrace new technologies and trends in his business area.

So, let’s say hello to Mike and see what happened when his employer went bankrupt and he was out on his own …

What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

Understanding eCommerce – started in 2003.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

My publicly held employer filed bankruptcy.

What made you decide to go into this particular business area?

I believed I could do it better, faster, etc.  By being the decision maker, implementer and chief bottle washer, I knew I’d be in direct contact with my clients, responding to their needs.  Small businesses can’t normally compete on pricing, so we compete on service.

Had you run your own business before?

Worse, I had been a business consultant telling people the “right” way to run their business.

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

Jumped in the deep end and learned to swim.  Full-time from day one.

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

You need to understand two things to succeed – how you are different from all the other folks out there and how that translates into a value proposition for your clients.

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

Write the business plan, develop an action plan and work through it.

What do you wish you’d done differently?

It took me a while to find a focus, I wish I knew then what I know now, but I can’t imagine I would have gotten here any other way.

What are you glad you did?

I can’t recall how many start up entrepreneurs we’ve helped along the way.  I can drive down the street and say we helped them, and them and them.  That’s a pretty cool feeling.

What’s your top business tip?

Understand the numbers.  What is breakeven for the company, for a new hire or for this project?

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

Grown, shrunk, grown, changed direction, and still standing!

Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?

I imagine we will be doing more social and mobile ecommerce solutions.  Folks will be buying off of Facebook instead of dedicated sites.

Do take a moment to visit Mike’s e-commerce and business development websites; you can phone him on 415 800 8091 or you can find him on LinkedIn or Facebook

Thank you for being my first international interviewee, Mike!

Mike didn’t provide any further updates after this first interview. As far as I know the website is still live as of September 2013.

If you’ve enjoyed this interview, please see more small business chat, the index to all the interviewees, and information on how you can have your business featured. If you’re considering setting up a new business or have recently done so, why not take a look at my new book, Going It Alone At 40: How I Survived my First Year of Full-Time Self-Employment.


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Assume or presume?

This request comes from Libro’s very own technical support department, otherwise known as Matthew. I don’t think it’s something he confuses himself, but he’s seen the confusion in action. Please feel free to submit your own suggested pairs to me as we go along, although it’s worth checking the list of all the posts here before you do that.

Anyway, on to assume and presume. Which have quite a subtle distinction.

To assume is to accept something as true without proof.

To presume is to suppose that something is the case on the basis of probability, or to take for granted.

So if you assume something is going to happen, you don’t have any proof and there may well not even be a probability that it is going to happen, whereas if you presume it’s going to, there is at least a probability that it will, or it has done in the past and you’re working from that.

Subtle? Yes. Clear? You tell me!

You can find more troublesome pairs here.


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What is localisation (or localization)? How do I localise documents?

I’ve been doing some localisation for some new customers recently and, mentioning this on my Facebook page, etc., I realised that this isn’t a well-known process.  So, for those of you who are interested, and people who might have documents they would like to work in different regions of the world (there’s a clue!), here’s a quick guide to localisation.

One of the dictionary definitions of ‘localise’ is “to make local in character”, and that’s basically what it’s all about. Say a website, or a brochure, or an advert, or even a novel, has been produced in America. Obviously, the language is going to be American, rather than British English. Eggplant, freeway and optimize, as opposed to aubergine, motorway and optimise. Now, sometimes, the company or publisher putting out that document will want to adapt it for different markets, so that the reader feels comfortable with the text and can understand it without any strain. If the markets are in countries that don’t speak English, then a translator will be called in to translate it for their country.  And if the markets are in countries that speak English, but slightly differently, then someone like me is called in to “translate” the text into British, Australian, Canadian (etc.) English.

It’s not just a matter of turning all the “ize”s into “ise”s. There are grammatical differences (“different from” vs “different than”), spellings (“colour” / “color”, “anaesthetic” / “anesthetic”), and terms (“pavement” vs “sidewalk” and so on).  Then there are trickier things – would a British reader understand immediately what “resumé boosting” or other very American terms mean? The aim, as with editing in general, is to make the reading experience smooth, so that the reader absorbs the words and their message, rather than being jerked into consciousness that they’re reading a created text, and coming out of the immersion.

Not every editor, or every translator, can do this work. It’s more like translating than editing, and I can do it because I’ve got particular and useful experience working for the UK office of an American company, where I dealt with the two Englishes almost every day for a good few years.  Add to that my editorial experience and general language skills, plus attention to detail which means making a list of the words I’m looking out for and making sure I change them all – and that’s why I’ve been praised and will be used again by the two companies I’ve completed localisation projects for so far.

It’s fun, too!

Read more about localisation as a career


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Inflammable or flammable?

There are some words which look like the same word but mean different things. Cleave can mean “stick together” or “separate into two or more parts”, for example. And there are other words which look different but mean the same. We’ve already come across “relative” and “relation” on this blog, which have one meaning which is the same, and “spelled” or “spelt”.

This pair is another that lots of people have asked me to write about. I think that most people do know that there’s something funny about them …

Because they mean exactly the same thing. As the Oxford dictionaries define them:

Flammable – easily set on fire

Inflammable – easily set on fire!  This one originates from the Latin “in-” prefix meaning into, thereby intensifying the word.  Not just easily set on fire; VERY easily set on fire. But I wouldn’t use this one as an intensified version of flammable. They just mean the same.

The word containing the negative or opposite idea, i.e. NOT easily set on fire, is non-flammable.

Oxford prefers the use of flammable, for clarity.

“The label on this nightie says it’s flammable – I’d pick the non-flammable one if I were you, so we can sit together safely in front of the fire.”

You can find more troublesome pairs here.


Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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Saturday freelance chat – Nigel Grant

So here we are with another Saturday freelancer chat. Do get in touch via email or the contact form if you’d like to take part – I have a few stacked up but I’d like to publish a year’s worth!  You don’t need to be a single, work-at-home freelancer – you could have set up your own company, employ people or work with a partner. People previously featured have seen click-throughs to their websites, so it’s worth giving it a go! Readers – if you’re not a small business owner yourself, maybe you know someone who is who might benefit from the exposure.

Anyway, here we have Nigel Grant visiting us from More Profit For You.  Nigel provides management consultancy services for SMEs (Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises) in London and the South East.  He’s recently rebranded and relaunched, so SME Partner is now called More Profit For You. Nigel contacted me via the 4N networking organisation, and indeed praises the power of networking in helping him build his business (obviously other networking organisations exist – 4N just happens to be one I belong to. People from other networking organisations will be featured in due course!)

What’s your business called? When did you set it up?

I’ve recently relaunched as ‘More Profit For You Ltd’, set up in April 2011.

What made you decide to set up your own business?

I was laid off from work and believe that in the current market I am unlikely to find suitable employment, simply due to my age.

What made you decide to go into this particular business area?

I would be able to use the skills and expertise I already had.

Had you run your own business before?

No, but I had assisted others in their start-ups.

How did you do it? Did you launch full-time, start off with a part-time or full-time job to keep you going … ?

Grabbed the bull by the horns – full-time. Signed up for various support programmes, joined 4N, published articles – the story continues …

What do you wish someone had told you before you started?

Be cautious in what you sign up for! There are plenty of people in 4N willing to give advice and they can often be more available.

What would you go back and tell your newly entrepreneurial self?

This is how to use social media!

What do you wish you’d done differently?


What are you glad you did?

Joined a networking organisation.

What’s your top business tip?

Keep networking

How has it gone since you started? Have you grown, diversified or stayed the same?

We’ve won our first major client and are already making a big difference to their business. Our website has now been launched – and we’ve produced a free booklet  – so all systems go!

Where do you see yourself and your business in a year’s time?

Small local business outsourcing some work whilst retaining involvement with clients myself.

To contact Nigel, especially if you’re a small business in the South East of England which needs a part-time Finance Director and strategic business support, go to his website, email him or call him on 0208 549 8790 or  07801 624 865.

Thank you for sharing your tips, Nigel, and best of luck with the new business! Click here for more freelancer chat, and here for his update interview a year later!


Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Business, New skills, Small Business Chat


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i.e. or e.g.?

I can’t honestly say that I’ve come across e.g. and i.e. being confused very much in my experience, but I’ve been asked by a couple of people to cover this one and I can but serve …

Both of these come from the Latin, and both are useful ways to say something in a short space (and one word, if you’re worried about word-counts!) although they tend to make the text look messy if they’re used too often, in my opinion.

First of all, e.g. – this abbreviation stands for “for example”, is used to introduce an example of whatever you’ve just been discussing, and comes from the Latin “exempli gratia”.  Bonus fact: don’t put it in italics and put a comma before but not after. “There are many power tools that can be used, e.g. drills, sanders and grinders.”

And i.e. means “that is” and again comes from the Latin; “id est”.  You use it if you want to explain what you’ve just said (rather than exemplify it). Another bonus fact – just like e.g., don’t put it in italics and put a comma before, but not after. “This project requires the use of power tools, i.e. those that require electricity to operate them.”

I would construct a sentence here containing both, but I don’t think it would look pretty and it certainly wouldn’t be recommended practice …

You can find more troublesome pairs here.


Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Errors, Language use, Troublesome pairs, Writing


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Networking and social media marketing

Today I’m going to talk about social media and live networking and why they’re similar in so many ways.  If you run a business, here are some hints about how they work and how you can also help fellow businesses to use them. If you have friends who run businesses, see how you can help them extend their reach and help more people.

Whether I’m talking to an individual at a networking event, tweeting a link to a blog post or updating my status on Libro’s Facebook page, I’m (hopefully) addressing two audiences.  The first is the person I’m speaking to. And the second is the people to whom they could potentially carry my message.

Networking events, co-working sessions, Twitter followers, Facebook friends – what they have in common is that each is a network.  Think of it like pyramid selling or chain letters but in a good way.  X knows 2 people who know 2 people each, that’s 4, each of those know two people and that makes 8 – even if some of them know each other, the network doubles each time.  Or rabbits. It’s a bit like rabbits, too …

These networks are more diverse and varied than you might at first think. Even if you’re close to someone in your life, history or profession, it is unlikely that your network overlaps with theirs completely.  Some examples …

  • My partner of 12 years – I have 353 friends on Facebook, he has 115, but we only share 62 of those people.
  • A Birmingham friend interested in the same things as me has 161 friends – and only 80 of them are shared with me.
  • An old University friend who is a freelancer like me has just 8 mutual friends out of a total of 239.
  • Similarly, Libro has 115 individual “likers” plus 8 businesses, so I make sure I share some of my Libro updates with my wider circle of friends.
  • It’s the same on Twitter – I’m pretty sure that not all my friends’ followers are following me (although it’s harder to extract the figures there), so if I retweet a business’s message, my 833 followers will see their message, and if they retweet mine, theirs will know about me.

When I’m at a networking meeting, I’m aware that the person I’m talking to is not always likely to want to buy my services.  But it’s very likely that, if I’ve made a good impression on them, they will remember me, and when they come across someone else in their social or business network who needs something that I offer, they will recall my details and pass my information on.  There’s lots of research on how to ensure that happens, but the general principle stands.

In the same way, if I tweet or put up a Facebook update about something Libro’s doing, the people who see it directly from me probably know all about what I do, or they might not need a proofreader or transcriber right now.  But if they “share” the Facebook post or retweet the tweet, who’s to know who out of their wider circle might find it useful?

Much of my work comes through personal recommendation, usually from previous clients, but also through networks of friends and associates.  This isn’t a plea to share and retweet my stuff, though … it’s a general reflection on how you can help your friends with businesses small and not-so-small to grow their networks and get known about.  Even large organisations need this – I was talking to someone from a museum just the other day, and he was bemoaning the lack of likes and shares on their Facebook page. Which is, by the way, good, engaging and interesting.

Hopefully this post has made some entrepreneurs, and most importantly their friends, aware of just how important the power of networks can be to their businesses.  Share a post or a tweet by a friend, a charity you support, a business you like … and someone in your network of contacts might find just what they need!

Postscript: Given the riots in the UK that happened just after I posted this piece, and the discussion on social media surrounding them, I thought I should say a few words on that subject. Social media – Twitter, Facebook and the like – are just another communication medium, like newspapers, letters and the telephone. Even if some newspapers print vile things, it doesn’t mean newspapers in themselves are dangerous and evil.  Poison pen letters don’t lead to calls for paper and pens to be banned. Personally, during the riots, I saw many good things come through Twitter, in particular. My local pub and other people in my area tweeted out reassurances that all was quiet. The police and the Resilience Team sent out messages of calm and information, and we retweeted those to help damp down unsubstantiated rumours. I heard about the cleanup campaign through Twitter and would never have known about it without that medium. So don’t worry that you’re helping perpetuate some kind of evil empire if you retweet a message about a decorators or editor – it’s just a communication channel!


Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Business, Jobs



Licence or license?

There are a few -c- vs. -s- word pairs kicking around, and I’m sure we’ll cover them all in the fullness of time.  We’ve already looked at “practice” vs. “practise”, and in fact this one both follows the same basic rules and bears the caveat that things are oh, so different in American English – so this post applies to British English only.

The difference again comes down to whether you’re using the word as a noun or a verb.

Licence is the noun (like our football practice).  So you have a driving licence, or licence to kill.  The second definition, which is actually packed into “licence to kill” with the first meaning, is freedom to behave as one wishes, without restraint.  “They took the wild music as licence to dance until dawn” – you can see that the meanings are very close.

License is the verb – to grant a licence to or authorise something.  “He is now licensed to drive a car – the DVLA licensed him and he has a driving licence.” By extension, we have a licensed premises (the licence to sell liquor has been granted to it) run by a licensee.

Just a little spelling quirk – if you’re licentious (disregarding rules; in the Oxford definition, rather sweetly, especially rules around sexual promiscuity OR grammar!) then it’s spelled like that, with the t.  Like a practitioner who practises something (in a doctor’s practice, for example).

You can find more troublesome pairs here.


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